Rep. George Santos, the Long Island congressman whose lies and embellishments about his life have drawn deep scrutiny, is expected to be arraigned in federal court Wednesday on criminal charges yet to be revealed by the Justice Department, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The embattled 34-year-old Republican, whose district covers part of Long Island and Queens, plans to address the public after his Central Islip hearing. Sources say he’s not expected to be seen as he surrenders to authorities prior.
The charges against Santos, filed in the Eastern District of New York, remain under seal until he appears in court.
His lawyer has not returned requests for comment regarding the charges, nor has his office. Santos’ office in Queens was empty Tuesday night. When reached by the Associated Press, Santos said of the charges: “This is news to me.”
“You’re the first to call me about this,” he said in the brief phone interview.
Spokespeople for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI declined to comment on the matter.
Gus Rosendale reporting on the controversial Congressman’s announcement for re-election.
What Is DOJ Looking at in Santos Case?
A Long Island prosecutor had previously been investigating whether Santos defrauded supporters and the New York attorney general’s office had previously said it was looking into possible violations of the law.
The Federal Election Commission has repeatedly flagged problems with Santos’ campaign finance reports. Sources familiar with the matter previously told NBC News that Santos was being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office for possible campaign finance violations.
The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center lodged a complaint with the FEC and urged regulators to investigate Santos. The “mountain of lies” Santos propagated during the campaign about his life story and qualifications, the center said, should prompt the commission to “thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money.”
Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres said the charges are “long overdue,” calling Santos “a pathological liar and lawbreaker who lied to the voters of New York State and defrauded his way into the United States Congress.
“One thing is crystal clear – either Rep. Santos must resign or House Republican leadership, under Speaker Kevin McCarthy, must summon the courage to join House Democrats in expelling him,” the statement from Torres went on to say. “Rep. Santos is a deep rot of corruption at the core of Congress.”
Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, from the Hudson Valley, said in a brief statement that “I reiterate my call for George Santos to step down.” Fellow Republican Congressman Anthony D’Esposito echoed those sentiments, saying “as a retired NYPD detective, I am confident the justice system will fully reveal Congressman Santos’ long history of deceit, and I once again call on this serial fraudster to resign from office.”
Legally speaking, Santos is allowed to stay in office as he fights the charges. Even if he is convicted, and the charges call for two or more years in prison, the rules of the House of Representatives state that he wouldn’t technically have to leave office, he just would not be allowed to vote on the House floor or in committee.
House Speaker Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy said during a press conference that Santos is not on any committees, and likened the situation to the one New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was in when he was indicted. McCarthy said that Menendez was able to stay on as part of the Senate and voted during the time, so it did not appear likely that McCarthy would be looking to expel Santos any time soon.
“We’ll just follow the same pattern we always have, right? If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees, they have a right to vote, they go to trial,” the House Speaker said.
McCarthy has said Santos should have his day in court — and that process starts Wednesday. It’s been months in the making.
In March, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was launching an investigation into Santos. That investigation appeared to be far-reaching, seeking to determine whether Santos “may have engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign” among other actions, the committee said in a statement.
The panel was also said to be looking into whether Santos “failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House, violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services, and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office,” the statement said.
Santos is allowed to stay in office while he faces charges. He had already removed himself from his committee assignments but otherwise has refused calls from many (including Republicans) in New York to step down from office.
His office previously said that he is “fully cooperating” with the Ethics probe and would not comment further.
The committee could recommend expulsion, the sternest form of punishment the House can impose, an action it has used only five times in more than two centuries and never when it comes to conduct that took place before a member was sworn into office. At least two-thirds of the House must vote for expulsion for it to occur.
Not only has Santos refused to resign, he has spent much of his time in Congress rewriting the narrative surrounding him — even saying boldly and without a hint of irony in March that “I think truth still matters very much.”
In April, Santos announced that he would seek reelection. The release from his team didn’t mention any of the many controversies, instead portraying him as a “dependable conservative vote” and noting he is the first openly gay Republican elected to the House.
The Nassau County Republican Committee, which had supported his candidacy, said it would not support him again.
A Democratic PAC is spending $45 million in New York state alone for the 2024 cycle, focusing intently on Santos’ district and a half-dozen others as the party works to regain majority control of the chamber.
CNBC reported that Santos may soon face his first Democratic challenger: former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who previously represented the district.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., were seen before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address having an exchange on the House floor. A lawmaker close to the exchange told NBC News that he overheard Romney telling Santos that he does not belong in Congress.
Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo, Farnoush Amiri and Jake Offenhartz contributed to this report.
Source: NBC New York
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